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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 48(2)

Targeted technologies for nitrous oxide abatement from animal agriculture

C. A. M. de Klein A C, R. J. Eckard B

A AgResearch Invermay, Private Bag 50034, Mosgiel, New Zealand.
B Faculty of Land and Food Resources, The University of Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: cecile.deklein@agresearch.co.nz
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Nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions account for ~10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with most of these emissions (~90%) deriving from agricultural practices. Animal agriculture potentially contributes up to 50% of total agricultural N2O emissions. In intensive animal agriculture, high N2O emission rates generally coincide with anaerobic soil conditions and high soil NO3, primarily from animal urine patches. This paper provides an overview of animal, feed-based and soil or management abatement technologies for ruminant animal agriculture targeted at reducing the size of the soil NO3 pool or improving soil aeration. Direct measurements of N2O emissions from potential animal and feed-based intervention technologies are scarce. However, studies have shown that they have the potential to reduce urinary N excretion by 3–60% and thus reduce associated N2O emissions. Research on the effect of soil and water management interventions is generally further advanced and N2O reduction potentials of up to 90% have been measured in some instances. Of the currently available technologies, nitrification inhibitors, managing animal diets and fertiliser management show the best potential for reducing emissions in the short-term. However, strategies should always be evaluated in a whole-system context, to ensure that reductions in one part of the system do not stimulate higher emissions elsewhere. Current technologies reviewed here could deliver up to 50% reduction from an animal housing system, but only up to 15% from a grazing-based system. However, given that enteric methane emissions form the majority of emissions from grazing systems, a 15% abatement of N2O is likely to translate to a 2–4% decrease in total GHG emissions at a farm scale. Clearly, further research is needed to develop technologies for improving N cycling and reducing N2O emissions from grazing-based animal production systems.

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